- Alejandro Junger, MD, cardiologist and founder of the Clean Program
- Ariana Lutzi, ND, naturopath and co-founder of Paix Medicine
- Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and women’s health expert
- Vikki Petersen, CCN, DC, CFMP, clinical nutritionist, chiropractor, and founder of Root Cause Medical Clinics
What is the healthiest way to eat garlic?
According to Ariana Lutzi, ND, naturopath and co-founder of Paix Medicine, garlic is one of the most accessible healthy foods to eat (not to mention affordable, too). "Garlic is packed full of nutrients and adds intense flavor to any dish. It's the most potent when used in its raw form," Lutzi says. The good news? Eating raw garlic has its perks after all, especially considering it's associated with several health benefits. This includes fighting infections and boosting the cardiovascular system. "Garlic, and garlic extract, fights all types of infections—fungal, bacterial, parasitic, and viral—regulates blood sugar, lowers blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol, to name a few," she says.
However, it's important to reiterate consuming garlic raw (and not cooked) is one of the best ways to reap its true benefits. That's to say, next time you're cooking you may want to consider adding a raw clove of garlic (or two) to recipes that don't involve heat—think dressings, salads, or dips—to maintain its nutritional value at its peak.
So, how many garlic cloves per day to reap the benefits?
Studies show that the optimal amount of raw garlic you should consume a day is roughly one to two cloves in order to get the most amount of benefits without any undesirable side effects (like body odor or heartburn). But if consuming raw garlic upsets your stomach, the same study shows that ingesting the herb in other forms—including garlic allicin, garlic extract, cloves of garlic, garlic capsules, and supplements—might provide some of the same benefits too.
7 health benefits of raw garlic
Alejandro Junger, MD, cardiologist and author with a focus on the health benefits you can derive from your diet, vouches for the health benefits of garlic, thanks to a compound it contains called allicin. According to a study in the peer-reviewed journal Molecule, allicin has a variety of health-promoting properties, for example, cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering effects that are advantageous for the cardio-vascular system. That's right, garlic can be good for your blood pressure and generally support your cardiovascular health.
What does garlic do for the body?
1. It's good for your cognitive health
One benefit of raw garlic is that it's packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, manganese, selenium, vitamin C, iron, potassium, and copper. This powerhouse combination is especially good for cognitive function: Vitamin B6 and magnesium are both linked to boosting mood and improving brain health.
2. It can help support a healthy immune system
Garlic is a great source of vitamin C, which is linked to boosting the immune system. According to the USDA, about three cloves of garlic contains about three milligrams of vitamin C. For a more savory immunity booster than oranges, incorporate some raw garlic into your meals.
3. It has anti-inflammatory properties
Garlic contains allyl sulfides, an anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting compound that can potentially help slow the growth rate of cancer cells. What's more, it's anti-inflammatory properties helps protect the body from damaging free radicals and oxidative stress.
4. It's can be good for your liver
If you've been wondering, "Is garlic good for the liver" the answer is simple: Studies have shown that it can protect the liver from some toxins. In turn, a well-functioning liver helps the body flush out toxins more efficiently, which is critical for overall well-being.
5. It can help boost cardiovascular health
According to a clinical nutritionist and chiropractor, Vikki Petersen, CCN, DC, and CFMP, consuming garlic on a regular basis is directly linked to benefitting cardiovascular health. "Garlic has long been known to reduce cholesterol and normalize blood pressure," Petersen says. "Additionally, its anti-inflammatory effects are a big benefit to diminishing the risk of our number one killer, heart disease."
6. It may help protect against osteoporosis
With aging, the risk for osteoporosis increases, particularly for women. Dr. Petersen says there is some evidence to suggest that consuming garlic can help protect against it. "Garlic can increase estrogen levels in women entering menopause, a time when bones are most at risk for developing osteoporosis. Some studies also showed it to slow the effects of osteoarthritis," she says. While the preliminary studies are promising, more research needs to be done to confirm this connection.
7. It's beneficial for skin health
While you probably don't want to rub garlic all over your body, eating garlic can benefit your skin from the inside out. "Garlic's antibacterial and anti-fungal properties can help acne, and its general anti-inflammatory benefits help improve overall circulation, including bringing nutrients to your skin in a more efficient manner," Dr. Petersen says. "Garlic is Mother Nature's antibiotic and contains immune-boosting properties due to its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and antiseptic aspects, all courtesy of the compound allicin that garlic is so rich in." She adds that garlic allicin is also anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants, which is good for the skin.
Is it safe to eat garlic every day?
You don't need to eat raw garlic with every meal, or every day, to reap the health benefits. Unless you're recommended to take it medicinally per your doctor's tips, you don't need to be taking it every day, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That said, it's important to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before introducing a garlic supplement into your daily routine, especially if you take blood thinners. This is because garlic supplements can increase a blood thinner medication's effect, making it even harder for your blood to clot. What's more, ingesting too much garlic at a time can have negative side effects like headaches, fatigue, appetite loss, muscle aches, dizziness, or, in some rare instances, allergic reactions.
Garlic can also be attributed to causing some rather uncomfortable gastrointestinal-related issues. If you've been wondering, does garlic make you gassy, especially if you've been experiencing some tummy-aching symptoms, you're not imaging it. Garlic and onions, according to the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, are high "FODMAP" foods, meaning they have a high content of "indigestible and slowly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates." Without getting into the fine print of it all– this means they have properties that some tummies have a hard time digesting. People who are sensitive to high FODMAP food may want to avoid foods like garlic and onion.
Despite all the health benefits of raw garlic and cooked garlic alike– here are some of the side effects you might face if you up your garlic consumption significantly.
Possible side effects of raw garlic
1. It can cause mild to moderate physical symptoms
When it comes to incorporating garlic into your diet, Dr. Petersen says there are some side effects to consider. Some people may experience heartburn, burning in the mouth, gas, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting.
2. It can have an effect on your body's scent
Body odor is another side-effect of loading up on garlic. But this is typically only an issue when people are eating upwards of three to four cloves of raw garlic a day.
3. It may cause burning or irritation
Eating raw garlic is not as easy as it sounds for some folks. That's because it can be super intense and even result in a burning sensation once you start chewing it, which is why Lutzi says other potential side effects, including gastrointestinal burning or irritation, can occur. "It can produce changes in intestinal flora," she adds.
4. Some people may develop a rash
Dr. Petersen says some people may be sensitive to garlic topically, meaning it could negatively affect their skin, causing a rash. If you're sensitive, she recommends wearing gloves when chopping or handling it.
5. It can interact with some medications
People taking certain medications should proceed with caution since raw garlic can potentially react with some drugs, including anticoagulants, antiplatelet, hypoglycemic, and insulin. If you're on other medications, it's always a good idea to speak with your doctor before incorporating any kind of supplement or herb (like raw garlic) into your diet.
Additionally, managing your raw garlic intake is important. Dr. Petersen says a healthy dose of garlic is two to three cloves a day cooked or a supplement of aged garlic at a dose of 600 to 1,200 milligrams. When in doubt, go small, and if it seems to agree with your body, that's great. Raw garlic might not be right for everyone—and that's okay. Since the potential side effects of eating raw garlic sound less than ideal, there are (thankfully) lots of different ways you can get all of the benefits of eating raw garlic without, well, having to chew an actual clove of garlic.
Is it better to chew or swallow garlic?
Chewing garlic is believed to release more allicin and provide greater potential health benefits. However, chewing raw garlic can be intense and difficult to tolerate due to its pungent taste and odor. Therefore, it might be preferable to acquire minced or chopped garlic via your diet instead of consuming it alone.
One way to make peeled raw garlic go down a bit easier is to slice the clove into thin slices and sandwich them between apple slices, as Dr. Junger suggests. The apple will help cover up the pungent flavor, and mixing the garlic with another food will make the whole experience a lot more tolerable.
Will I get all the health benefits of eating garlic if I swallow it whole?
According to Lutzi, you can still get the health benefits of eating garlic if you swallow it whole. Need tips on how to cut garlic? She recommends cutting the clove into four small pieces and swallowing it whole like a pill to avoid the pungent effect of chewing it. Again, it's strongly encouraged to talk to a provider before doing this and listen to your body if you experience any adverse reactions.
Other ideas for eating raw garlic:
- Mince a garlic clove and toss it into your salad or salad dressing.
- Make garlic toast, like this blogger, by mincing the raw garlic, and then mix it with some ghee or butter, and spread it on toast.
- Make an ACV garlic tonic (see the recipe below).
- Add to soups or juice with other veggies.
Ideas for eating cooked garlic:
Why is it so difficult to eat raw garlic?
Of course, we totally understand that even the thought of consuming raw garlic might make you cringe. So, if you really hate the taste but want to reap the benefits of raw garlic, there are garlic extract supplements available, including some that are odorless. And, if you're not quite sold on eating raw (yet), here's an RD-approved garlic cooking tip to get the most anti-inflammatory benefits from every clove.
Does garlic detox your body?
There is little scientific evidence to support the claim that garlic can "detoxify" the body. This is partly because the language and terminology around something "detoxing your body" are not medically accurate. Your liver detoxes your body every second of every day by breaking down various materials and sending the useful nutrients where it needs to go and the waste to your kidneys. In that sense, garlic supports liver function, which supports "detoxification."
So there you have it, folks, an answer to the big question, "Is garlic good for you?" Use this as an excuse to order all the garlic-containing menu items, load up on garlic recipes at home, and, hey, keep those vampires at bay while you're at it.
Herbal tonic with raw garlic recipe
Apple cider vinegar
1. Roughly chop multiple cloves of garlic and add to the small mason jar.
2. Fill at least one-fourth of the jar full of chopped garlic. Next, pour in equal parts honey and apple cider vinegar, enough to cover the garlic.
3. Let this mixture sit in a dark pantry or cupboard for at least a week, shaking daily.
4. After a week, strain out the garlic or leave it for a more robust concoction. Take one tablespoon daily for immune defense throughout cold and flu season.
Watch the video below to learn more benefits of raw garlic:
- Ansary, Johura et al. “Potential Health Benefit of Garlic Based on Human Intervention Studies: A Brief Overview.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 9,7 619. 15 Jul. 2020, doi:10.3390/antiox9070619
- Borlinghaus, Jan et al. “Allicin: chemistry and biological properties.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 19,8 12591-618. 19 Aug. 2014, doi:10.3390/molecules190812591
- Cao, Hai-Xia et al. “Garlic-derived allyl sulfides in cancer therapy.” Anti-cancer agents in medicinal chemistry vol. 14,6 (2014): 793-9. doi:10.2174/1871520614666140521120811
- Ried, Karin. “Garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, improves arterial stiffness and gut microbiota: A review and meta-analysis.” Experimental and therapeutic medicine vol. 19,2 (2020): 1472-1478. doi:10.3892/etm.2019.8374
- Varshney, Ravi, and Matthew J Budoff. “Garlic and Heart Disease.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 146,2 (2016): 416S-421S. doi:10.3945/jn.114.202333
- Ahmadian, Fereshte et al. “The effect of consumption of garlic tablet on proteins oxidation biomarkers in postmenopausal osteoporotic women: A randomized clinical trial.” Electronic physician vol. 9,11 5670-5675. 25 Nov. 2017, doi:10.19082/5670
- Pazyar, Nader, and Amir Feily. “Garlic in dermatology.” Dermatology reports vol. 3,1 e4. 28 Apr. 2011, doi:10.4081/dr.2011.e4
- Iacovou, Marina et al. “The Low FODMAP Diet and Its Application in East and Southeast Asia.” Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility vol. 21,4 (2015): 459-70. doi:10.5056/jnm15111
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